Published: 16th December 2021
Cooking oil pellets? Check out this student invention that could someday change the way you cook
Not just this, students of The Design Village also developed a biodegradable packaging material for oil which is made from oil cake
When it comes to sustainability, every drop counts. Literally. Even the "oops" moment you have when you pour more than the required amount of oil into the pan can be avoided. But how? This is the problem that the students of Noida-based The Design Village (TDV) were pondering over for the Biodesign Challenge 2021 (BDC 2021), an education programme plus competition with a keen focus on biodesign. The resulting solution required them to use oil cake (residual material after oil is extracted from seeds) to make biodegradable oil packets. They also developed cooking oil pellets to ensure that no drop goes to waste. This won them Community Choice Prize and Outstanding Instructors Prize as well which were announced recently.
It is UN SDG (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals) 9, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, that the students wanted to focus on for this biodesign contest which focuses on solutions that are at the intersection of biology, design and technology. Students were trained via eight to ten sessions on biodesign, bioinformatics and more. Simultaneously, the students and the mentors started working on the solution. That's how they came up with SPOIL (Sustainable Packaging for Oil) and the oil pellets. "The name comes from the fact that in India, adding excess oil, especially ghee, in food is seen as a way of demonstrating affection, especially towards children," explains Anusha Dhawan, Best Instructor awardee and Facilitator at TDV.
Upon doing some more research, the team comprising Tanish Agrawal, Arshad Bajil Kuttasseri, Natasha Singh, Kunika Sharma and the instructors found that when stearin (saturated fatty acids) is present in higher percentages in oil, the oil tends to take a solid form. "Like coconut oil in winters," explains Anusha. Thus, they use a process, which they choose to remain tight-lipped about, to increase stearin's percentage and mould the oil into pellets. "Two pellets are equal to one tablespoon of oil and that is the measurement they can use to cook without wastage," she shares. Though the team agrees that this would require a big behavioural change, they are sure that it will help in controlling wastage.
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When it comes to packaging, they use a binder to add to the oil cake which results in a thin, paper-like material that can be used to package oil. "We tried various components in different consistencies and it took us a lot of time to arrive at a solution," shares Anusha. It is in June that they submitted their idea and out of the 52 teams who participated from 20 countries, students from TDV were chosen as the winners for their novel solution. They hope to collaborate with other biodesigners and researchers to take their solutions to the next level.